Tag Archives: special needs

Going Insame

(Reprint of March 2014 article published in 2e series)

Every day I sit in my seat and try to ignore the fact that the pebbled plastic leaves grooves in my legs which will itch like crazy.  Every day I am reminded that my feet are not flat on the floor. Every day I stare at the pencil in my hand and will it to do tricks or loops or flips or floops or anything resembling writing while I doodle away in my mind. Every day I listen to conversations going on around me, everyone just talks talks talks talks, and every day I’m told that I don’t listen. But I heard.

I wish I could hear less of it.

I am so tired of forgetting the question when it is my turn to answer. I wish I could stop licking my lip, tapping my foot, adjusting my sleeve, and I wish you wouldn’t call my name. I am so tired of the ideas and the dreams and the answers and the questions and the stories and the conversations, all of which regale me every second of every day. You say I daydream. But I am right here every second.

I wish I could sleep.

I try to sleep. There are too many possibilities in the dark. All of the things I could not answer in class are suddenly swimming before me. Only thing is, they are swimming with friends, lots of them, the answers are suddenly better than anything anyone else said and I wish I could turn back time and I wish I could squeeze my eyes shut to close out the ideas and the answers and the images but they find their way back in. Poetry writes itself, images present for creation, solutions come easy, action sounds delicious, as does too much food, dinner was too crunchy sticky bland, and all the time

I wish I could stop it.

Then it is morning and it is another every day and another every day and another. But today, on the way to school, the sunrise moves me to tears and I can’t stop. It is not just the color, so brilliant and crisp and beautiful, it is the promise of something grand, something bigger than me, something I can’t explain, something I want to think more about, something I want to hold dear, to never let go. There is something promising I can be Same. Same, it says.

Not different, but Same.

It’s all too much and I forgot my coat. Crisp sunrise turns too cold in line waiting for the bell to ring. A coat is all I want, and to see the colors just one more time. But it is not to be. The sun is up, the bell has rung, and the pebbled plastic seat leaves grooves in my legs which have already started to itch

like crazy.

Get over it: a perspective on the tenacity of gifted and 2e children

If our children could simply get over whatever it is they are currently trying to hurdle, our job as parents and educators of gifted children would certainly be much simpler and I gather it would be quite a bit calmer.  The tenacity our kids attach to everything they do and everything they are longing for is an endearing trait which makes us smile, Facebook™ little quips, and enjoy every moment just a little more; and yet, it is this very stick-to-itiveness which drives us crazy and keeps us from being on time for anything.   From favorite pieces of clothing which you have to wash with the child wearing them to a special stuffed animal, from a new game or sport to not wanting to go to school, the intensity with which our children can focus on a chosen item or behavior seems to create a fight or flight response inside of them and as a parent we have a choice to fight back or run with it.

When to run along:

The positives which come along with a strong connection to things and a tenacious spirit which never takes no as an answer fuel the most adventurous and original conceptions and creations of our time.  At the moment it might look a lot like a child who wants to wear the same shirt over and over, but tomorrow it will most likely take the form of something different.  In my experience, it’s the form it takes next which may cause the child a great deal of angst or an equal measure of happiness.  How do parents and educators determine which way the pendulum is swinging so that we can ensure a positive outcome?

It is my experience that the pendulum, by definition, will eventually swing back to the other extreme so it may be best to follow the line to the fixed point from which it hangs to determine the most appropriate action.  For scenario one, you follow it up to the top and find it is affixed to a good place so it’s best to let it swing and complete its course.  An example of a good connection can be found within the shirt example above.   I have shirts which fit just right and make me feel wonderful, and if I were six years old perhaps I’d want to feel that way every single day (and I’d probably want to sleep in it, too!)  Maybe something wonderful happened in that shirt and your child made his first friend or answers came easy that day; whatever it is, remember that it’s just a shirt to you, but to the child, it’s a platform, a motivator, a battle won, and a comfort.  Fighting with your child about something which makes them feel wonderful sends an unintentional message of apathy and aggravation towards his deepest desires.

Is it frustrating at 6:30 a.m. when you need to get to work?  Yes.  Is it necessary to fight?  No.  This is a good time to run alongside your child.  Let her dance amongst the flowers in the same sun dress she’s worn in every photo since summer vacation began and remember: her passion and happiness for life stems from that same dress-love and will ultimately fall on something else with the same resolve.

When to fight:

For scenario two, you follow the pendulum cord up to the top in the same way as before but you find it is attached to a negative place.  Your child expresses feelings of being fat, lonely, ugly, or alone.  Letting your child continue to wear that shirt sends a message that you agree with that sentiment or that there is no way to resolve his feelings.  The shirt represents the bad as much as it represented the good.   Now the shirt he won’t change may represent his feeling of not belonging, it might help him feel less conspicuous, and might very well stem from a clinical depression.  It’s time to fight.

Fighting with your child or your teen does not mean literally forcing him to change his shirt, which will never happen without too much negative impact and shaming.  What it means is that it may be time to find where the pendulum is connected and seek support, resources, and counselling.  There is never harm in seeking professional advice which will certainly empower your child to face and solve the real problem and it will show you are there to support, not stand in the way, when he’s faced with another hurdle.

Is it frustrating at 6:30 a.m. when you are trying to get ready for work?  Yes.  Is it necessary to fight?  Yes.  This is a good time to fight alongside your child.  Find the professional help your child needs to address the real issue so that he or she may apply this amazing resolve and tenacity to something positive once again.

The Grey:

Both of the scenarios above have played out at my house and I’m pretty sure I responded poorly to both at one time or another, but I remind myself that good connection is good no matter what extreme it currently appears to take and a bad connection is bad and the extremes can be harmful if parents are not ready to cut the pendulum’s cord before it swings back.

There are times parents need to make those tough choices and fight the good fight but it’s not as easy as dead squirrels.  When a very dead baby squirrel was found in our backyard and was carried to the kitchen door to show me, I knew it was time to fight.  The ensuing scrubbing, burning of clothes, calls to the county to make sure there were no diseases, and the sorrowful tears because my daughter, who was 2.5 at the time, wanted to keep it forever and ever and ever and name it Squirrely, was a necessary and obvious fight.  Ok, got it… dead squirrel = fight!

Of course, in the real world, the need to fight or the time to run alongside is much less obvious than dead squirrels.  While I’ve made it sound black and white with the shirt examples, the truth is that the difficult parenting decisions happen in The Grey.  The Grey is where you reside when you have a split second to make a decision and you don’t have enough information or confidence or guts to quickly choose to fight or run along.  Grey is the color of the many advocacy meetings (which usually end with me crying) I’ve had in the past twelve years.  Gifted and twice-exceptional kids live in this grey; and as hard as it is every time you need to make a decision, I imagine it’s twice as hard for them.

As parents, the best gift we can give our children is to swing in the grey alongside them, not to constantly run, not to constantly fight, and certainly not to constantly question and fear our decisions will be right or wrong.   We need to be watchful for times when that glorious tenacity attaches to perfectionism, anger, depression, and self-loathing, but we also need to dance alongside them in the Grey as a way of appreciating and enjoying their ability to stand behind their convictions and decisions with a ferocity which will someday change the world.

It took many years for me to say this with confidence, but I think finding the balance is less important than swinging with a smile!

Silence is Platinum

A surgery in my early 20s to remove cysts from my vocal folds resulted in one side becoming permanently paralyzed. It took six months to learn to talk again and then another six months to feel confident in my voice.   I compensated by carrying a little notebook and writing my responses down when people needed me to talk. This was long before the cell phone, laptop computer, tablets, iPads, texting, and I found that I could never quite write what I was thinking fast enough to matter in the conversation.

The fact that I could not speak did not make my world silent. It did, however, give me a greater appreciation for silence and the ability to sit back, listen, and allow the world to mix with my soul and dance in my mind.  It was in these moments that I felt the most able to process and talk… the most ready to share and listen.

Now I can say with full clarity that there is never a time I am more creative, more aware, and more able than when I am silent.  When I am silent everything around me spins into words, words become imagery, and visualization becomes real possibility.  I can move from word to word infinitely and I can do so at my own pace and apply them to everything and anything.  And I can listen, really listen, to the world around me.

Being alone in your thoughts is often thought to be synonymous with being lonely, depressed, or unsocial.  I disagree.  I believe that when children, those who talk nonstop and those who are afraid to talk, are given the opportunity to be truly quiet and observant, they are actually being given the opportunity for real awareness.  They are observing the world from an unobstructed and secluded mindset that is so far removed from lonely that it actually resides in a place which gives forth joy and self-realization.

In their silence they can play and process and enjoy their world which breaks down into pictures and words in their mind.  These words have the power to identify who we believe we are and others believe us to be. They are subject to ridicule and perspective, they are enough and never enough all at the same time, and they know how to move, jive, relish, and hide as we muddle through our day.  While words are overwhelming when they are simply noise, they are breathtaking when they make sense and become relevant.

Words and silence go hand in hand and the sooner the world slows down enough to allow our kids to experience the beauty of silence and the happiness they can find in creating their own words at their own speed without having to share, the sooner we will realize that for us, the receiver, it doesn’t matter how this sentence ends.

Twice-Exceptional Pigeons

If you visited Trafalgar Square in the 1990s, what you probably walked away with is that the name, which used to be Charing Cross, commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, that it was redesigned in 1845 by John Nash, and that it is owned by the Queen under the Right of the Crown policy, which is quite interesting in and of itself… wait, no, none of this stuck with me or anyone else.  Let’s start over.

If you visited Trafalgar Square in the 1990s, what you probably walked away with is white dings of pigeon poop all over your carefully picked out comfortable and sensible, but stylish and British-y outfit.

Yes, I’m talking about…. Pigeons.  I can’t think or speak the words Trafalgar Square and not think about pigeons.  It’s not just the quantity, for those of you who have not witnessed Trafalgar Square Pigeons, it is the culture which makes me giggle and wonder.  Every morning the street musicians, human statues, and pigeon feed carts would set up for the day.  Yes, I said pigeon feed carts.  They sold pigeon seed on paper plates or little baggies at 25 pence a serving.  The tourists eagerly got into line to purchase the food.  That is to say, the tourists eagerly got into line and paid to be pooped upon.

The musicians and performers would desperately vie for the money, perhaps knowing that if a tourist was willing to feed money to a pigeon, they might just be willing to feed it to their talent.  People would laugh and shriek and feed pigeons and snap photos.  The pigeons would coo and eat and mock and poop.  It was a vicious cycle.

To me, Trafalgar Square represents the minds of our twice-exceptional children.  A twice-exceptional child is a child identified as gifted and learning disabled (ASD, SPD, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, etc).  The issue with identifying these children has been that the cognitive abilities often mask the learning disability and the learning disabilities often mask the gifted qualities.

Let the pigeons represent their thoughts.  These kids have so many thoughts, more than one usually sees in a small square, and they fly in and coo and gather, they mill and bump and squawk and fight.  They reproduce seamlessly and when they do, they arrive as full-grown thoughts (I mean, has anyone seen a baby pigeon??)  The pigeons get in the way of the actual attraction, what the child wants to think or do or say, and those little thoughts come back for one reason only: to eat and eat and eat.

The tourists gather around these kids and snap pictures and smile and laugh and shriek, because let’s face it, pigeons in that quantity are fun, freaky, and different.  They buy food and feed it to the hungry critters and then get overwhelmed by the mob which isn’t satisfied with one or two paper plates’ worth of food.  It is about this time they decide to hoof it to the Underground and check out the Palace, where pigeons eat one grain at a time and know better than to sit on your head and poop on your jacket.

As tough as it is to get a good picture, I imagine it’s even more difficult for our kids who are experiencing the onslaught.  Even in England where the queue is second to godliness, pigeons don’t line up in tidy lines awaiting instruction.  They are relentless and the kids can’t just shoo them away all the time; furthermore, when they try to shoo them away they are probably missing something you are pointing out to them at that very moment.  Small successes are real and they manage to scare off a few.  But they come back with friends and oftentimes right after you’ve repeated a directive for the second time.

What does this all mean?   I think it’s important to offer tangible visuals to educators, parents, and children towards the purpose of helping them realize that thoughts, like pigeons, can be fed properly and less chaotically.  We could tell them that people do want them to share, but sometimes they have to pull back and release a few pigeons at a time.  Finally, we could help them understand that when it’s overwhelming, they won’t succeed in shooing them all away (at bedtime, for instance, when pigeons have a knack for being bothersome), so maybe it’s best to go across the street to the little café and watch from there, read a book, write some poetry, or hide if you have to.

Parents, when we find out we have 2e kids (and it seems to me all kids identified as gifted have a touch of pigeon), we become the tourists and we are desperate to snap the perfect photo to share with our loved ones, so they can see how whimsical, wonderful, and amazing it is to have so many pigeons all in one place.  We want the world to see what we see in our kids and sometimes we end up screaming and running around like crazy people with poop in our hair.

Take a picture, run around and scream, and have a nice cup of tea, because the truth is when you look back at the best journey of your life, you don’t care about the picture you took, you just like to laugh about the moments which led up to it.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Follow up: I have read that after twenty years of feeding feral pigeons, the 1990s saw the largest growth of feral pigeons Trafalgar Square had ever recorded.  They were quite literally in the way of commerce, traffic, and meaningful family photos.  The government did away with the pigeon feed carts and has returned the population to a number that “Great Britain deems acceptable.”  Though I’m sad to report that they have not published the GBAPN (Great Britain Acceptable Pigeon Number), which would be quite useful for those of us who would like to compare said number to the USAPN for purposes of solving boredom and being silly.